Having charge and quality information at your fingertips enables you to make decisions based on true value.
In the past few years, various reporting organizations have developed interactive public Web sites with health care charge and quality information. But all sources are not equal, and consumers must be certain the data is based on national standards and benchmarks for quality and safety. It's also important to understand how to interpret and use the information.
How to use quality data
- Familiarize yourself with the measures and how they can help improve the care that's delivered to patients.
- Review the methodology section of the Web sites. Are the results based on nationally recognized benchmarks and endorsed by organizations such as the National Quality Forum? Is the data audited?
- Be sure to look at the results over a period of time to get an accurate portrayal of organizational quality. One bad outcome in a quarter with relatively few procedures, for example, will greatly skew the results. Looking at three or four quarters provides a more accurate picture.
How to use charge data
Comparing charges between local providers for similar procedures can help you decide where to go for care based on your insurance reimbursement and personal preference. Combined with quality data, charge information can provide you with an overall picture of the total value you will receive.
Additional factors to consider
Charge and quality data are starting points — just two factors that should go into health care decision-making. Not any single measure is indicative of an organization's overall performance.
You should gather information, discuss it with your doctor and call the hospital to ask questions. A hospital's reputation in the community, patient satisfaction and other factors should also be considered.